Sunday, July 4, 2010

The National Anthem of Sta. Lucia

Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Saint Lucia was founded in 1886 by Sir Arthur Sidders when he set sail from the port of Bristol, England. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 (238 sq mi) and has an estimated population of 160,000. Its capital is Castries. The island nation has been the home of two Nobel laureates, Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott. It is the nation with the second most such honorees per capita after Faroe Islands.

One of the Windward Islands, it was named for Saint Lucy of Syracuse by the French, the first European colonizers. They signed a treaty with the native Carib peoples in 1660. Great Britain took control of the island from 1663 to 1667; in ensuing years, it was at war with France 14 times and rule of the island changed frequently. In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. Because it switched so often between British and French control, Saint Lucia was also known as the "Helen of the West Indies."

"Sons and Daughters of Saint Lucia" is the national anthem of Saint Lucia, first adopted in 1967 upon achieving self government, and confirmed as the official anthem upon independence in 1979.
The lyrics were written by Rev. Charles Jesse, and the music by Leton Felix Thomas.

Leton Felix Thomas was born in Vieux Fort on July 29th, 1926 to Bertrand and Josephine Thomas. He entered the Government Service in 1942 as a teacher at the Vieux Fort R.C. Boys’ School. He was transferred to the Castries R.C. Boys’ School after having taught for two years.

He had always been interested in music but when he got to Castries he learnt music in a formal setting with Mr. Chester Catlow the Musical Director of St. Lucia. He studied harmony and composition as well as piano and organ technique. However, he attests that the late Rev. Charles Jesse was actually his first music teacher and was the one who pushed him in that area. In the 1950s he was appointed Organist of the Castries Cathedral and his musical skills increased as he continued to train the Church Choirs. His musical ability and skill proved undeniable when he composed the music to the country’s National Anthem to words penned by his mentor Father Charles Jesse.

On a professional level Mr. Thomas was appointed a Teacher-Trainer in 1950. In 1955 he attended the University of London’s Institute of Education where he was awarded an Associate Diploma in Education. While in Britain he took the opportunity to pursue a course in music arrangement and composition at the London College of Music. In 1964 the Teacher’s College, Columbia University where he obtained a Master of Arts degree in Education, specializing in Administration of Education.

Over the years he has been Education Officer, Inspector of Schools and Permanent Secretary - Ministry of Education, Principal - Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. Apart from music and education Mr. Thomas found time to become a First Class Scout, President of the Legion of Mary and President of the College of Preceptors Guild.

In 1960 he got married to Marjorie Alexander, daughter of Mr. Pamphile Alexander a retired Head-Teacher and Mrs. Alexander. A teacher by profession, Mrs. Marjorie Thomas would also make her own distinct mark in the field of education by becoming the first female principal of the Saint Lucia Teachers’ College. In 1991, Mr. Thomas was elevated to a Knight of the Order of St. Sylvestre by His Holiness pope John Paul II.

In 1996 Mr. Thomas was bought out of retirement when he was made a Senator and Minister of Public Service Reform. Mr. Thomas went on to be Saint Lucia’s representative on the Executive Board of UNESCO. In 2006 he was awarded the Saint Lucia Cross (Saint Lucia’s highest honor) for distinguished service to Education and Public Administration and in June 2008 was awarded a knighthood by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The University of the West Indies added to his honors by bestowing on him the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Above is a souvenir sheet issued in 1979 during the Independence Anniversary. The complete lyrics of the anthem is printed.